With assistance from the Lumber City Development Corp., the City of North Tonawanda has been awarded $10 million from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council for round 5 of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Since 2016, New York’s DRI, a cornerstone of the state’s economic development program, has transformed downtown neighborhoods into what the has been called “vibrant centers that offer a high quality of life and are magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation and economic housing diversity. These compact, walkable downtowns are a key ingredient to creating unique places that will continue to attract visitors and sustain residents to the ultimate live, work, play destination in New York state.”
Criteria utilized for selection of DRI communities include: physical environment, past investment, future potential, recent or impending job growth, support for the local vision, and readiness. Past winners in the Western New York Region include the cities of Jamestown, Olean, Niagara Falls and Lockport.
“It took an extraordinary effort by the Lumber City Development Corp. to get this proposal prepared,” Board Chair Douglas Taylor said. “Thank you to Laura Wilson, our executive director, who gathered all of the information required, accepted numerous comments and suggestions from the LCDC board, city stakeholders, and project consultants – and incorporated all of this into the proposal with some world-class artwork.”
North Tonawanda has prepared for the injection of DRI funds through its various past planning programs, including the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) program. Through these processes, it said, “the community helped establish a vision for the downtown and waterfront areas to include mixed-use compact development, trail connections, recreational amenities, waterfront access, affordable housing, and a thriving downtown business district. The DRI bolsters upon this vision and aims to expand the existing footprint of the downtown corridor to connect the Erie Canal and Niagara River waterfronts.”
To facilitate how these funds are spent, the City of North Tonawanda will convene a local planning committee to oversee the development of a strategic plan for downtown revitalization and identify specific projects based on readiness, impact, and the leverage of other funding sources. The local planning committee will be comprised of key local stakeholders, state agencies, municipal staff, regional economic development partners, city residents, business owners and local developers. Technical assistance from a professional consultant team will be provided by the state through this program.
A press release said, “Similar to other planning projects in the city, broad public outreach will play an important role throughout the process and help shape the plan. The local planning committee will host various public engagement events in the form of community conversations, workshops, walking tours and design charettes to solicit the public for their feedback.”
After the local planning committee completes the DRI strategic plan (a nine- to 12-month process), the state will then select which projects are to be funded in the proposed plan, and it will be evaluated with a certain criteria including: alignment with state and local goals, project readiness, catalytic effect, co-benefits and cost effectiveness.
North Tonawanda’s winning DRI application can be found here: http://www.lumbercitydc.com/content/2021%20NT%20DRI-%20FINAL%20%209.13.21-compressed_2.pdf.